Endangered Wolves Released Into Mexico’s Chihuahua Wilderness

by Matthew Memrick

Four American-born Mexican gray wolves became part of the Chihuahua wilderness recently, adding to a endangered population once “extinct.”

New Mexico’s Ladder Ranch raised the foursome. Officials say the pairs were named “Manada del Arroyo” and “Manada del Gavilan,” or “Creek Pack” and “Hawk Pack.”

Once plentiful in the southwestern United States and Mexico, these particular Mexican wolves lived in Arizona’s Sierra Madre mountains down to central Mexico. Over the years, their numbers dwindled due to hunting.

Newsweek reported on the updated numbers.

These Gray Wolves Neared Extinction Levels

The Mexican government put out a report in 2010 saying the wolves were “extinct in the wild.”

But they’ve bounced back in the last ten years.

A two-country effort since the 1980s has worked to strengthen numbers. The endangered species has at least 186 in the U.S. wilderness. That means there are 72 in Arizona and 114 in New Mexico. The Federal Wildlife Service said that was a 14 percent increase since a 2019 survey. Basically, the population has doubled in only five years.

Mexico had had 19 releases of the specific wolf in the past 11 years.

The groups involved get additional help from the FWS, Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD), and New Mexico’s Game and Fish Department (NMGFD).

Hunting and Poaching Still A Threat To Mexican Wolves

One male Mexican wolf named Anubis died on Jan. 2 near Flagstaff, Ariz. The wolf’s name came from the Egyptian jackal-god of death and had been seen in the state last year.  

A US Fish and Wildlife spokesperson confirmed the killing while announcing an investigation into the death at Kaibab National Forest.

One official with the Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project mourned the wolf’s death.

“I was heartbroken to hear about the illegal killing of Anubis,” executive director Emily Renn told Newsweek. “I had been tracking his movements in northern Arizona since April 2021, exploring the areas where he roamed and advocating for his freedom and safety for many months.”

Renn added that the wolf’s collar was a giveaway for hunters not to shoot it.

Efforts To Save Mexican Wolf Applauded

But despite those challenges, Mexico has at least 45 Mexican wolves in the wild after the recent release.

“With these releases, CONANP reiterates its commitment to continue efforts to establish this subspecies that bears the name of our country,” CONAP said in a statement. 

The agency took pride in the recovery efforts of the Mexican gray wolf.

“AZGFD’s contention has always been that Mexico is an important component of Mexican wolf recovery,” AZGFD Mexican wolf coordinator Jim deVos said.

The coordinator applauded the international “cooperation” and chided the naysayers who said such a recovery couldn’t happen with America’s southern neighbor.